Have you heard our news?

We’re on the move!

It’s just 3 years since we moved into Downs Court and now, with a much bigger team and a growing number of great clients with exciting projects to work on, it’s time to expand into a new, much bigger space.

Here’s a snapshot of what’s been keeping our growing team busy in the last 12 months alone!


The patient journey made real. Strategic North visit The Christie.

The Christie png

Being based in Greater Manchester, we are truly privileged to be part of a world class healthcare and biopharma community, the European City of Science no less. It supports, stimulates and inspires what we do in healthcare and pharma marketing. One big part of this is having The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, a European leading cancer care and clinical research centre on our doorstep. Inspired by a number of recent projects in the area of oncology, a small team from Strategic North was recently given a tour of The Christie to further deepen our understanding of cancer care and what that means for patients. Continue reading

Information sharers or story tellers: how adapting our approach brings more value to our customers


For many of us who work in the pharma industry, engaging with both internal company and external customer stakeholders is critical to our role. The information we share with those groups is central to achieving that engagement. So as a case study, let’s look at how customer research projects are run. Here, where information sharing and storytelling are critical, we observe two trends that challenge whether we are really optimising our success with the existing approach.

Market research budgets are in decline, as are physician response rates. We hear from our fieldwork partners that as few as 5-10% of those approached are willing to take part. Recruiting from an ever decreasing pool reduces our ability to gain real insight into our customer’s behaviours and decisions and, therefore, do our job to the best of our ability.

As an agency that strives to make the customer voice and experience central to strategic brand planning, these trends affect what we do, every day. So this says to us that neither our internal nor external customers are seeing value in the process and outcome and consequently are engaging, supporting and purchasing less of what we do.

To understand some of the causes of this image problem, we spoke to both key customer groups about their experiences of market research. Continue reading

Do you truly understand how human decision making is impacting your brand?

Businessman pressing button on touch screen interface arrows choice. Direction pointer. Vector illustration. Icon choice direction. Modern concept of choice. Decision making.

In our last issue of Strategic Snippets we discussed the fundamentals of building great healthcare brands. Brand marketing is ultimately about behaviour change: a person makes a decision based on their belief about a brand and that leads to a behaviour. The decision could be completely subconscious (and most likely is) and the individual may not even be aware they have made a decision. Think about driving your normal route to work each day. You are constantly deciding when to accelerate, brake, change gear, check your mirrors. How many of those decisions are conscious rather than subconscious?

According to academic research, every day we make somewhere between 23,000 and 35,000 decisions that allow us to function effectively. The vast majority of those decisions are made subconsciously; in fact, a study from Columbia University in 2012 estimated we only make around 70 conscious decisions each day. Continue reading

What can Brexit teach us about pharma marketing?

As we wait to discover the long-term implications for pharma of the UK’s seismic decision to exit the EU, what can we in pharma marketing learn from the campaigns that preceded the vote?

We spend a lot of time in our work exploring how human beings make decisions and the role of emotion in that process. If ever there was a decision made on emotional rather than rational drivers, this was it. The referendum is believed by many experts to be the most emotionally and least rationally driven decision made in British political history. So let’s look at this with a marketing lens and see what we can learn. Continue reading

Live, listen & learn

In the third blog in our patient centric series, guest contributor Jens Birkenheim combines personal experience with professional expertise to share thoughts on how we can better engage and enhance the lives of our patients. 

It was March 2014 and I had just left a corporate career to venture out on my own. Following many years in the pharmaceutical and healthcare technology industries, I was compelled to apply the skills and experiences I’d gained to explore opportunities in diabetes. Having been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes back in 2003, I also had over 10 years practical experience trying to manage my condition and, albeit clichéd, was motivated to ‘make a difference’.

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The new diarists

Continuing our focus on patient centricity, we’re delighted to bring you insight into social listening with a guest blog by pharma marketing specialist Mervyn Ward.

 “Blessed be God, at the end of the last year I was in very good health, without any sense of my old pain…”

Last weekend, I was clearing out a bookshelf at my parents’ and came across a book on Samuel Pepys’ diary, which opened with the above quote. He was a bit of a lad of the ‘60s (the 1660s that is) not only transforming the funding and future of the Royal Navy, but also providing historians and readers with a fantastic insight into health, the plague, the fire of London and the social history of the time. Although written for himself, Pepys became one of the first published diarists and since this time many diarists have not only written for themselves but also for open distribution/publication. 

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So what is patient centricity?

In our new series of patient-focused thought pieces, we are delighted to bring you this expert guest blog contributed by Mark Duman.

Reflecting on Mark’s insights and experience, the Strategic North team share thoughts too.


There are 5 Ms that I use to describe the core elements of patient centricity.

1. Models

It’s worth having a little think about what we mean by patient centricity – common definitions lead to common understanding, actions and outcomes.

In the UK’s NHS, patient centricity is currently labelled patient and public ‘participation’. In September 2013, NHS England published their Transforming Participation guidance, which dissects the topic into three areas:

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3 Things … March 2016

This month our team have been inspired by research findings that show even small changes to our daily choices and routines can bring benefits to our health, productivity and the outcome of therapies.  And, with a glimpse into the future of medical implants, is it really possible that snoring could power a pacemaker?  Read on…

1. Quality of life isn’t just about feeling good… it’s about ‘immortalising’ our cells.

Reach for a fast food fix or smoke a cigarette and something inside says, “didn’t like that, your life just got shorter”.  But treat your mind and body to a relaxing bath followed by a healthy salad and inside says, “that feels good, let’s increase your life span a bit”.  Here we start to uncover how.

Inside us all is a ‘glue’ called telomeres and it works with a chromosome in the same way an aglet (plastic bit) stops a shoelace from unravelling. The nature of them was discovered by Nobel Prize winner Dr Elizabeth Banks and it’s understood that these work as the protector caps that stop chromosomes from breaking apart or joining with others e.g. mutation. Low levels of telomeres are associated with increased risk of disease, because if they aren’t doing their job then chromosomes go ‘unmanaged’.

So why do they stop working? Well, science has learnt that as we age the telomeres naturally deteriorate by shortening and when they become too short, they die. The important part: new studies are now showing that life stress (mind or body) can also impact length and, in a way, accelerate the ageing process. This is very important if we think about, for example, the way cancer is treated; the stress could in theory undo the targeted treatment, i.e. while it kills off some bad cells, the process for healthy cells is impacted due to stress from side effects and a reduced quality of life. So, treatment and QoL really do go hand in hand since both are needed to prolong life.

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Manchester City of Science …and home of Strategic North

Manchester is the proud home of Strategic North and the city has always provided the foundation and spark for our growth. To understand the reasons for this we need to know more about the dynamic of the city and to do this, certainly for me personally, we need first to wind the clock back a number of years …

I first moved to Manchester twenty years ago to take my first role in the pharma sector, but my relationship with the city goes back to 1989 when as a teenager the ‘Madchester’ cultural and music scene, with iconic bands The Happy Mondays, Charlatans, James, Inspiral Carpets and led by the mighty Stone Roses, didn’t so much seep but batter its way into my young mind… and perhaps it has never been the same since! After the economic collapse of the 1980s the city drove its own revival rather than waiting for anyone else to make it happen, and with huge success.

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